Muban – Expérience de dérive urbaine

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Muban (木板, “wood board” in Chinese)
Urban drift experiment with wooden boards
Beijing, China 2011 – 2013

Muban is an experiment about movement and material recuperation. Since I moved to China, I have been observing how people constantly recycle everything – from cardboard boxes and plastic bottles to bricks, doors and windows from demolished buildings. These materials are immediately collected and sold by the kilo or directly reused. I wanted to see what would happen if I threw my own material out onto the street. where would it end up? How would it be used? I bought some thin plywood boards, and had them cut (81 x 61 cm). On either side of each board I painted white shapes to be able to spot them easily. Each board was given a slightly different design so I could differentiate and follow them. Then, I left them in the street and waited to see what would happen.

Muban A, Caijing donglu

Eltono-MubanA-x18

One day on my way to my daily Chinese classes, I found a shortcut passing through a “hutong” neighborhood. I found it so interesting, compared with the rest of the over-urbanized area around, that I decided to pass through there everyday. The people living there were very kind, always smiling and open to communication. I decided to do the first Muban experiment in this neighborhood because it was quite small, had one story homes and very few residents lived there. Furthermore, as I was walking or biking through it everyday, I would be able to observe the pieces and how they moved twice a day. I prepared the first nine Mubans in my studio and one night, I deposited them around the tiny hutong streets. I distributed the boards into four sets: one containing three boards and the other three containing two. They disappeared very fast and, only once (18 days later), was I able to see a set of two boards (A6 and A7) reappear again in an adjacent street before it was completely gone. I abandoned the nine boards in November of 2011 and I continued to observe until the summer of 2012. Today this neighborhood is almost completely gone. Most of the people have lost their homes and have been forced to move somewhere else in order to build more towers and skyscrapers.

Click on the images to enlarge them and read the captions to follow the story.

Muban A1, A4 and A5:

Muban A2 and A9:

Muban A3 and A8:

Muban A6 and A7: